Iowa City’s Good Neighbor program is part of an effort to make the development process run more smoothly between property owners and developers who seek zoning and related changes, and the neighborhoods that may be affected by those changes. The Good Neighbor Policy outlines the expectations regarding the notification of neighboring residents on pending land development applications by the applicant(s). This process encourages proactive dialogue between property owners, developers and neighbors that may help identify and resolve issues before the project is reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission or City Council.

For minor projects, such as a yard setback reduction, the approach may be as simple as knocking on neighbors’ doors to discuss the proposed project with them. For a rezoning or subdivision, it may be appropriate to hold a neighborhood meeting or open house to present the project and invite questions and comments from your neighbors. 

While the Good Neighbor program does not guarantee specific outcomes, answering neighbors’ questions and hearing their concerns or suggestions may provide the opportunity to developers/applicants to address concerns or objections before the project is reviewed in a public forum. This can minimize controversy and delays when a project is reviewed by the Board of Adjustment, Planning and Zoning Commission or the City Council.

Good Neighbor Policy

A Good Neighbor meeting is a meeting between property owners, developers , engineers and neighbors to introduce and explain a proposed project and facilitate dialogue before the project is reviewed by applicable governing bodies and are expected under most circumstances as part of the review process in Iowa City. The following are considerations in scheduling the Good Neighbor meeting:   

  • Good Neighbor Meeting shall occur no less than 7 days prior to the scheduled public meeting in which the application will be first considered. Additional meetings should be considered if the application is not approved by City Council within 24 months of the original meeting.
  • Good Neighbor meeting will be attended by a City staff representative. Arrange with Urban Planning staff to confirm availability for meetings.
  • Good Neighbor meeting notice reviewed by City staff prior to distribution. Urban Planning staff will review notices.
  • Meeting facilities located as close to the subject property and neighbors as possible. Urban Planning staff can assist with location suggestions.
  • Meeting notice sent by applicant to all property owners and occupants listed on the Assessor’s website within 500’ of the subject property and sent out not less than 7 days prior to Good Neighbor meeting date. Staff may also provide contact information for groups or neighborhood associations that should also be contacted.
  • Meeting summary submitted by applicant.  Applicant will develop a summary of the input provided at the meeting which will be available for distribution to the P&Z Commission/City Council. A sample report is included below in Resources.

Helpful Tips for a Good Neighbor Meeting

What information can you provide that the neighbor will find useful?

  • Background information including a description of your project and the public process it must go through.
  • Site plans, elevations, models, aerial photos, drawings, etc. This will help them visualize the changes you wish to make.
  • Information or other resources that discuss the zoning or land development process. The Citizen's Guide to the Rezoning Process is located below in Resources. 

View it from their perspective: How will neighbors see your project?

  • Put yourself in the place of the people who surround your property.  Will they view your project as an enhancement or unexpected change?  
  • How might your project impact traffic or pedestrian safety in the area?
  • Does your project enhance or complement existing neighborhood character, or does it contrast with what surrounds it?
  • Will your project alter the natural landscape, impact views, etc.?
  • Might your project reduce the sense of privacy for a neighboring property owner?

Ways to respond to concerns

  • Listen and be respectful—give people the chance to be heard.
  • Focus on identifying problems.  This meeting is a chance for you to gather input that may be useful to you in getting your project through the review process. The issues that your neighbors raise are often the same issues that may be raised by the Planning and Zoning Commission or the Board of Adjustment.
  • Be open to options that could be reasonably implements to alleviate or address problems.
  • Resolving problems at the meeting is not necessary, but it may be helpful to identify areas where there is some flexibility in your plans.
  • Know that you won’t necessarily be able to please everyone, but that you are providing an opportunity for dialogue. The neighbors will appreciate your effort and the opportunity to share their views.

Resources

Good Neighbor Brochure

Sample of Good Neighbor Meeting Notice

Summary Report for Good Neighbor Meeting (fillable form)

Citizen's Guide to the Rezoning Process

Board of Adjustment Frequently Asked Questions

City Government